Blogs & Videos: Evolution

Tea Parties, Bird Barf, and Rat Skulls

At tea parties, etiquette is key. You need to know which spoon to use, whether to pour the milk or the tea first, and, when a fellow scientist hands you an owl pellet for your research, how to graciously accept it and dissect it right there at the table. Field Museum collections manager Bill Stanley was at a garden tea party in Tanzania when a colleague handed him a coffee can containing an owl pellet for him to study. The hacked-up mass of fur and bones contained the key to a scientific discovery—the skull of a rat never before seen in the region.

“Scarface”: The Dachshund-sized Pre-mammal with a (Possibly) Venomous Bite

Two hundred and fifty-two million years ago, huge volcanic eruptions triggered a mass extinction bigger than the one that ended the dinosaurs, changing life on earth forever. Field Museum scientist Ken Angielczyk and his colleagues are now studying this event, the Permian-Triassic Extinction, to learn about how communities bounce back after falling apart. And one newly discovered ancient mammal relative is helping them get closer to their answers—meet “Scarface.”

Monsters Storm The Field

Invertebrate paleontologists aren’t afraid of anything, so when Collections Manager Paul Mayer was offered a chance to add hundreds of monsters to The Field’s collections, he jumped at the opportunity. The monsters in question, Tully monsters, are just a small part of the enormous donation of Thomas V. Testa’s collection of Mazon Creek fossils that The Field Museum just received from Field Associate Jack Wittry.  

New Discoveries in How Animal Moms-to-Be Feed Their Babies

Pop quiz—what kinds of animal mothers feed their babies before birth? The first (and maybe only) ones to come to mind are probably mammals like us—moms-to-be funnel nutrients from their blood supply right to their developing embryos through an organ called the placenta; the moms literally “eat for two.” That’s a different kind of nourishment than you see in most other animals—the majority lay eggs with a nutritious yolk for the embryo to use as it develops.

Birds get malaria, too

Just like people, birds have the misfortune of being visited by a variety of blood-sucking insects, insects that can transmit all manner of parasites through their bites. Some of those parasites, including ones related to human malaria, come in the form of haemosporidia--single-celled protozoans that take up residence in their host's bloodstream. Using modern lab techniques, scientists are now able to discover the diversity of these parasites living in the bloodstream of wild birds by isolating their DNA from the blood of infected birds.

Naked mole-rats: Not a mole, not a rat, and not an African mole-rat

You may remember him from the Saturday morning cartoon, Kim Possible – Rufus, the naked mole-rat, tenacious pet of Kim’s best friend Ron. With very little hair, some whiskers, wrinkly-pink skin and large teeth, Rufus stole the hearts of all who watched him save the day. In many episodes, Rufus is the hero, and like Kim and Ron, scientists agree that naked mole-rats are pretty cool.